Have you ever thought about the word "agency"? Would you be surprised to know that it does not appear anywhere in the Bible? King James ascended to the throne of England in 1603 and the King James version of the Bible was published in 1611. The word agency did not appear in the English language until the 1650s. Thus, the word agency was not available to the translators of the King James Bible. The words that were available to the translators were "master" (or Lord) and "servant."
The word agency refers to a relationship between two people, one of whom is empowered to act for the other. A real estate agent acts for an owner when he or she sells a house or a commercial property. An attorney is an agent for his or her client and has the authority to act in the client's name.
There is a kind of irony in using the term agency in a religious context to mean freedom, when the historical definition of "agent" is a servant authorized to act for his or her master--according to the master's instructions. However, in this context, certain scriptures on the subject of agency make more sense. For example, in Doctrine & Covenants 58:28, the prophet Joseph Smith revealed a truth about God's children, that ”the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves."
So, who are we agents for? Who is our principal or master? We are agents unto ourselves. We are responsible to ourselves and for ourselves. In the same revelation, the Lord suggested that His children ought to "do many things of their own free will" (Doctrine & Covenants 58:27). In fact, He goes so far as to declare that an agent who needs to be compelled to do good "is a slothful and not a wise servant" (Doctrine & Covenants 58:26).
We have the power in us to be agents unto ourselves--the power and responsibility to carry out our own decisions. The Lord is pleading with us to do good of our "own free will," instead of being compelled to do so by a master ruling over us with a hand of oppression. The power we have to act as our own agents and carry out our own instructions is preparing us for greater responsibility and greater wisdom than we now have. It is preparing us to become kings and queens. It is giving us both the freedom and responsibility to develop character, integrity, and leadership--in a way that we could never do by simply carrying out someone else's instructions obediently. Agency is both a great responsibility and a divine gift.
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